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The Latest: Lawyer: Prosecution of judge is ‘political’

District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph, center, departs federal court, Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Boston after facing obstruction of justice charges for allegedly helping a man in the country illegally evade immigration officials as he left her Newton, Mass., courthouse after a hearing in 2018. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — The Latest on charges against a federal judge accused of helping a suspect evade immigration detention (all times local):

6:15 p.m.

A lawyer says a Massachusetts judge charged by federal authorities with helping a suspect avoid immigration detention is “absolutely innocent.”

Attorney Thomas Hoopes told reporters that the prosecution of Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Joseph “is absolutely political.” Joseph and former court officer Wesley MacGregor pleaded not guilty on Thursday.

Joseph appeared to fight back tears as she left Boston’s federal court after her brief appearance.

Joseph and MacGregor were indicted on obstruction of justice charges. An email seeking comment was sent to a public defender for MacGregor.

The charges stem from a 2018 court hearing, during which authorities say the two schemed to help a man living in the U.S. illegally elude a waiting immigration agent.

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5:30 p.m.

A Massachusetts judge and a former court officer have pleaded not guilty to charges that they helped a man evade detention by an immigration enforcement agent.

District Court Judge Shelley M. Joseph and former court officer Wesley MacGregor appeared in Boston federal court Thursday after they were indicted on obstruction of justice charges. They were both released after the hearing.

Authorities say they schemed to help a man living in the U.S. illegally avoid a waiting immigration agent after a court hearing last year by letting the man leave out a back door.

Joseph’s lawyers declined to comment Thursday. An email was sent to an attorney for MacGregor.

Joseph has been suspended without pay.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey decried the charges as a “politically-motivated attack” on the courts by federal authorities.

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2:45 p.m.

Massachusetts’ attorney general is blasting federal prosecutors for charges brought against a state court judge accused of helping a man evade immigration detention.

Attorney General Maura Healey called the indictment against District Court Judge Shelley M. Joseph and former trial court officer Wesley MacGregor a “radical and politically-motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts.”

Healey said it is a “bedrock principle” of the constitutional system that “federal prosecutors should not recklessly interfere with the operation of state courts and their administration of justice.”

Healey says the matter could have been handled by the Commission on Judicial Conduct and the Trial Court.

Joseph and MacGregor were expected to appear in court later Thursday. They were indicted on obstruction of justice charges. MacGregor was also charged with perjury.

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2:30 p.m.

A Massachusetts judge charged with helping a man living in the U.S. illegally evade immigration detention has been suspended without pay.

The Supreme Judicial Court announced District Court Judge Shelley M. Joseph’s suspension Thursday after she was indicted by a grand jury on obstruction of justice charges.

Authorities say Joseph and a court officer schemed last year to help a defendant escape out of the courthouse and elude an immigration enforcement agent who was waiting for him.

Emails were sent to lawyers for Joseph and former court officer Wesley MacGregor. MacGregor was also charged with perjury.

They are expected to appear in Boston federal court later Thursday.

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1 p.m.

A Massachusetts judge has been indicted on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly helping a man in the country illegally to evade immigration officials.

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling announced the charges against Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph on Thursday. Former court Officer Wesley MacGregor was also charged.

Joseph came under federal investigation after authorities said she and her staff helped a defendant leave the courthouse last year after a hearing on charges, including drug possession.

Prosecutors say an immigration agent was in the courthouse to detain the man following the hearing, but Joseph and the court officer schemed to help him leave out a back door.

Joseph and MacGregor were expected to appear in court later Thursday. It was not immediately clear if they have lawyers.

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